The Shalimars, My Shalimars

Many posts ago I told you about going to Lincoln High School in San Francisco–and that we were encouraged to join service groups via the YMCA–ours was located at Stonestown near San Francisco State U. We called ourselves the Shalimars (a name that Lorrie Perry came up with, the same Lorrie who was doing local “pr” for the Beatles before they set foot in the USA.). Shalimar is also the name of a perfume.

As a “service group” we elected officers and raised money for charity. We got the money by washing cars and hosting Friday night dances at the “Y”. I’m sure I mentioned the dance music came from an old fashioned record player and the hot song was “Louie Louie”. Boy, I loved to dance to that song……

Well, here we are after winning an award for our good work.

Who’s Who: Back row, L-R: Sue Ann Sperry, Lynda Anderson, Jan Gunther, Helen Fouser
Front Row, L-R: Lynn Kalajian (we share the same birthday!), ME, Barbara Sawyer and Judy Howard.

Not all of the Shalimars were present.

In Defense of Old Houses: More from Greg Faris

639 Santiago, across from El Granada School.

Here’s What Greg Tells Us:
The meeting is tomorrow at the Sheriff’s North Coast Sub-Station, 500
California Avenue, Moss Beach beginning at 3:00. Discussion of this
house is scheduled for 5:30.
The home is pictured on page 134 of Barbara VenderWerf’s book,
Granada, A Synonym for Paradise with the caption “House on Santiago
Ave. built in 1910 for Thomas Stephenson family… The house is also in
the 1910 photon on page 106” (as reported by Sara Bassler, Chair, MCC
Planning and Zoning Committee).
Rose Tognetti lived in the house from 1937 until last year.

(There is also a petition circulating. For more info, please email Greg at: [email protected])

In Defense of Old Houses

Greg Faris of El Granada tells me that this house (639 Santiago) will be torn down and replaced with a new house.

I know this house well because I lived around the corner and it was on my walking route. This was a house that caught my attention, taking me back to early El Granada.

Greg tells me the house was built in 1910 and the quaint water tower served the family and other neighbors.

I told Greg that I feel certain I interviewed the family who lived there, and I’ll have to root around in my old notes to find what I’m looking for.

Look at the photo and you’ll see the “story poles” are up–not much time remains for this house. Tomorrow, Greg says, there will be a hearing about the proposed new project tomorrow. Where and when will that be, Greg?

Here’s the house again:

How could you forget….

Dan’s Motor Court……………. where, when the days of Moss Beach’s drive-in motel were numbered –(the land overlooking the ocean was worth more as residential property)– the art on the walls consisted of photographs snipped out from magazines and taped to the walls. Gone now, I miss seeing Dan’s when I drive through Moss Beach. All we have is this photographic memory.

Front, Back….and Sideways….and, yes, I once slept there…

What Henry Told Me

When I met Henry Debenedetti in the 1970s, the colorful history of Miramar Beach was tugging at my curiosity strings.

I already knew about Maymie, the red-haired madam—who ruled not only the prohibition era roadhouse that her lover-carpenter built for her—but her powers (political-financial) seemed to extend southward into the little town of Half Moon Bay.

My evidence: I have had reliable reports from those close to the action that Maymie was often seen in the company of the town’s banker and his wife and friends—a strictly spreadsheet type of relationship.

Miramar was at the center of everything. It had even been chosen as the best spot for a tiny port, the first one on the Coastside, despite the unpredictable winds that finally closed it down.

There was one mystery I hadn’t solved—a name locals attached to Miramar, a name I wasn’t getting right.

“Peach Chiano,â€? that’s what I thought I heard locals call him—but I knew that couldn’t be someone’s name. Maybe a nickname?

So—when I encountered Henry in the library after the Thanksgiving of 1976, Miramar and “Peach Chianoâ€? were on my mind.

Henry ticked off a list of things he remembered about Miramar. The one that grabbed my attention most was “Pete Gianni. He had a wild temper….â€? And he was involved in a horrendous crime that shocked the community after WWII.

Henry cleared it all up. Pete Gianni was my man.

I took a quantum leap forward in my quest when Spanishtown Historical Society member “Patsyâ€? Dutra gave me a significant set of clues. Her then 89-year-old father, Mac, sometimes called “Dukeâ€?, had owned the town’s funeral parlor.

Patsy furthered my investigation by giving me the funeral home’s report on Pete Gianni, then long deceased.

Gianni was well known on the Coastside, the owner of a grocery store in Miramar—where local Italians gathered to dance on weekends. Some described him as kind and quiet, others as easily incited. As long as his business prospered, the widower seemed content.

But after WWII ended, and the soldiers stationed on the Coastside—many of whom frequented Gianni’s store scattered to begin new lives elsewhere– Pete Gianni’s grocery business slipped sharply and he considered taking on a partner.

The 72-year old Gianni knew and respected the Shaw family of El Granada, 36-year-old Lincoln, his 33-year-old wife Agnes, and teenage daughter Carolyn. Lincoln had attended schools in San Mateo County, including the junior college and Agnes’s father was a respected Burlingame contractor.

During the war fish oil was in high demand and Lincoln made a good living working as a commercial fisherman at Princeton. When the war ended, so did the demand for fish oil and Shaw looked for new opportunities. To save money, the Shaws moved in with their Burlingame relatives.

Pete Gianni and Lincoln Shaw cut a deal as Lincoln paid the grocery owner $1000 for an interest in the business. The Shaws would continue to live and commute to Miramar from Burlingame. Under the new proprietors, the grocery store thrived and prospered.

Instead of feeling proud, Gianni seethed, feeling he had been cheated in some way.

After the first of the year in 1947, neighbors heard the angry voice of Pete Gianni at the grocery store. The old man was armed with a shotgun, yelling at Lincoln Shaw, angry about the rent, saying he wasn’t being paid enough.

Shots rang out. Lincoln was mortally wounded. Gianni spun around, pointed the weapon at Agnes and her daughter, Carolyn, threatening them but he didn’t shoot. Running out of the store, he drove away in his car, the destination his longtime friend and veteran Redwood City criminal attorney Joseph Bullock, also known as the “verbal volcanoâ€?.

But in the end there wasn’t a trial. Pete Gianni pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to prison, passing away at the Vacaville Medical Facility in 1955.

Pete Gianni’s horrific crime stunned the Coastside community, and 20 years after his death, everyone who lived in Half Moon Bay remembered his name.

(Photos, Spanishtown Historical Society, Patsy Dutra)
Note: the second photo is of the Gilles Grocery Store in Miramar, last time I saw it it was a private residence and in the hands of the Gilles family.